I think I might have gotten a little--just a little--tired of dessert food this holiday season. Monica and I were worked on a big baking project over break (you'll hear more about it soon!) and I turned out about a dozen cakes in two weeks. Between all the Christmas cookies and chocolate we went through, I started craving savory food and fruit.
This granola fits the bill perfectly as a light, fruity breakfast to start the day. In contrast to a lot of store-bought granola, which always seems a little too sickly-sweet with dried fruit or weighed down with chocolate, this granola gets a bright flavor from both lemon juice and zest. I don't know why I never thought of introducing citrus to granola before; the lemon lifts the granola from a stale pantry food (or fished from the bottom of your backpack food) into something fresh and homemade.
Granola was one of the first things I learned how to bake completely from scratch. I remember feeling a sense of surprise that the little brown bar that seemed intrinsically linked to its foil package and corn syrup-y sweetness could actually be made at home--and what's more, was quite easy to make and had the potential to taste so good.
I highly recommend the addition of freeze-dried fruit to this granola; it adds a pop of color and tartness, without the sugar and funky preservative flavor of dried fruit.
You can make a pretty big batch of this granola in under an hour, even accounting for hauling your baking supplies up and down the stairs outside to the communal kitchen, almost getting locked out of the dorm, and forgetting the citrus zester in your room and zesting the lemon by hand.
The granola will keep for a few weeks, but it will probably disappear from your kitchen quite quickly.
Lemon and Honey Granola
Click here for the printer-friendly recipe
Yields about 7-8 cups of granola
4 cups rolled oats (see notes)
3 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus extra for greasing
¼ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
½ cup honey
2 tablespoons lemon juice
zest of one lemon (about 2 tablespoons)
1 cup puffed rice cereal, such as Rice Krispies
1 cup finely shredded unsweetened coconut
1 cup raw pepitas
½ cup roughly chopped raw almonds
¼ cup freeze-dried strawberries or raspberries, finely chopped (optional; I just like the extra pop of color and tartness they add)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Toss together the oats, oil, and salt. Spread evenly over a large cookie sheet or jelly roll pan and bake for 15-20 minutes, shaking the pan two to three times during baking.
Reduce the heat to 325 degrees.
In a microwaveable bowl, mix together the brown sugar, honey, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Microwave on high for about 1 minute, or until the mixture just begins to simmer.
Place the cooked oats into a large mixing bowl. Add the rice cereal, coconut, pepitas, and almonds. Pour the honey/lemon mixture over the dry ingredients and mix until well-combined.
Line a 11x17 jelly-roll pan with foil, and grease with vegetable oil.
Turn the sticky granola mixture onto the pan. Rub some vegetable oil into your palms, and use your hands to press the granola into an even layer.
Bake for 20-25 minutes. Let cool. Peel the granola away from the foil and break into small chunks. Toss in the freeze-dried strawberries, if using them. Enjoy!
Quick oats can be used in place of rolled oats. Just reduce the toasting of the oats from 15 minutes to about 7-8 minutes. To make this recipe gluten-free, make sure to use certified gluten-free oats.